From rag­time to Rach­mani­noff, song of­fers com­fort, our ex­pe­ri­ences linked to mu­si­cal mem­o­ries

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY ERIK ENT WISTLE

While its pres­ence can be spo­radic or ubiq­ui­tous, mu­sic ac­com­pa­nies all of us on our life’s jour­ney. Our en­coun­ters with mu­sic, whether in­ten­tional or in­ad­ver­tent, in­flu­ence our lives in ways that are some­times dif­fi­cult to quan­tify and ap­pre­ci­ate. Yet we know that when we em­brace a piece of mu­sic, it gains a unique hold on our imag­i­na­tion.

With that in mind, I’d like you to con­sider the fol­low­ing ques­tions be­fore read­ing on:

1. Re­call one of your most vivid mu­si­cal mem­o­ries. What do you see and hear?

2. What is one piece of mu­sic you wouldn’t want to live with­out―—and why?

3. Given what you al­ready know and en­joy, what are you still look­ing for­ward to ex­plor­ing and dis­cov­er­ing about mu­sic?

Per­haps your an­swers sprang quickly or re­quired a lot of thought, but hope­fully this lit­tle ex­er­cise stim­u­lated your mind’s ear and you’ll con­tinue to con­tem­plate your an­swers and what they re­veal about your past, present and po­ten­tial fu­ture mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ences.

When con­sid­er­ing the first ques­tion, there’s no deny­ing that mu­sic plays a cru­cial role when it in­hab­its our mem­o­ries, and be­ing able to re­play those mu­si­cal mem­o­ries helps to keep them alive. For me, this ques­tion brings two mu­si­cal im­ages im­me­di­ately to mind. The first is my daugh­ter stand­ing alone on­stage seven years ago as young Cosette in Les Mis­er­ables. Broom in hand and dressed in rags, she’s singing Cas­tle on a Cloud. The show played for a month to sold-out crowds and was the ul­ti­mate proud-par­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. See­ing my daugh­ter in char­ac­ter on stage also made me far more sus­cep­ti­ble to the sear­ing mu­si­cal melo­dra­mat­ics of Les Mis than I might oth­er­wise have been. I doubt if I’ll ever again ex­pe­ri­ence that same level of cathar­sis dur­ing a per­for­mance.

The sec­ond im­age, en­tirely dif­fer­ent yet just as po­tent, is my grand­mother sit­ting at the pi­ano play­ing her ren­di­tion of Hoagy Carmichael’s Star­dust. On New Year’s Eve we would gather around to hear her im­pro­vise her fa­vorite stan­dards, and Star­dust was her sig­na­ture tune. Twenty-five years later, my grand­mother long gone, I can still hear the melody as it emerges from her fin­gers, gilded by im­pro­vised arpeg­gios cas­cad­ing ef­fort­lessly up and down the key­board. For me, this will al­ways be the de­fin­i­tive ver­sion of Star­dust, even if its com­fort­ing strains ex­ist only in­side my head.

Mov­ing on reluc­tantly (I want to stay with those mem­o­ries a lit­tle longer), and to an­swer ques­tion num­ber 2, a piece I wouldn’t want to live with­out would be Bach’s Pre­lude in C Ma­jor (the fa­mous one Gounod “en­hanced” by adding a melody set to the text of Ave Maria). As a pi­ano in­struc­tor, I find it to be the ideal piece to share with my stu­dents. There’s some­thing pro­foundly beau­ti­ful be­hind the ap­par­ent sim­plic­ity of its arpeg­giated chords. It’s mu­sic of un­par­al­leled seren­ity to re­visit again and again over the course of a life­time.

If there is al­ready mu­sic we can’t imag­ine liv­ing with­out, ques­tion num­ber 3 re­in­forces mu­sic’s prom­ise as a con­tin­u­ous and in­ex­haustible re­source to fur­ther in­spire our open ears and in­quis­i­tive minds. This ques­tion also in­vites us to ex­plore some of the is­sues sur­round­ing mu­sic and the var­i­ous roles it plays, not only in in­di­vid­ual lives, but also here in our lo­cal com­mu­nity and in so­ci­ety at large. With that in mind, please let me know what you’d like to see ad­dressed and dis­cussed here in fu­ture col­umns.

In the mean­time, I hope you will con­tinue to think about how mu­sic has en­riched your life and the lives of your loved ones, and con­sider what steps to take to keep the mu­si­cal

ex­pe­ri­ences flow­ing. Whether we seek mu­sic out or hap­pen upon it serendip­i­tously, a new song or piece al­ways awaits our dis­cov­ery, and fu­ture mem­o­ries are poised for creation.

Pi­anist, in­struc­tor and mu­si­col­o­gist Erik En­twistle re­ceived an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in mu­sic from Dart­mouth Col­lege. He earned a post-grad­u­ate de­gree in pi­ano per­for­mance at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in St. Louis. He earned a doc­tor­ate in mu­si­col­ogy at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Santa Bar­bara. He teaches on Sani­bel, and can be reached at toti.com/ con­tac­tus.


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